When one of the legends in the sport leaves us, we remember. If a man is known simply by the company he keeps, Robert Yates did very well. As a team owner, he was the boss to such NASCAR luminaries as Davey Allison, Larry McReynolds, Ernie Irvan, Dale Jarrett, and Ricky Rudd.
Who won? -- That was the one and only question the 60th annual summer event at Richmond had to answer. Who would win it? Three drivers entered had won it twice before, one already had the hat trick. All 13 with multiple wins there during their career are in or will be in conversations regarding the Hall of Fame.
For a race that has been around since 1958, it is a damn shame that it does not carry the proper branding to link it over the decades to the time it was claimed by the likes of Speedy Thompson, Cotton Owens, and Joe Weatherly. Let us properly honor it and refer to this Saturday night’s contest in Richmond, Virginia as the Federated Auto Parts Capital City 400.
History and tradition. Often NASCAR sells it out for a corporate buck, but the Southern 500 was a race to win long before they went round and round at Daytona, Talladega, or all those generic races on cookie cutter 1.5-mile tracks across the country. It was the race a driver wanted to win. That legacy continued in Darlington, South Carolina on Sunday night at the track too tough to tame, the famed Lady in Black.
Bristol is where the legends win. Darrell Waltrip won a dozen times there. Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt, and Rusty Wallace each had nine. Then there is Kyle Busch, who’s victory on Saturday night pushed him to six, one more than his brother Kurt and David Pearson. Each one in the Hall of Fame, or will be. No exceptions.
Change. Sometimes change is good, like when you win a few million dollars. That is good. You get married to your sweetheart. Good. Your children start arriving. If you are a mature adult, and not some self-serving narcissist, that is very good. New talented drivers emerge on the scene. That is also a good thing.
NASCAR is losing steam. Surprise! It is not exactly news, but this week comments made by the top brass yet again reminded us of what has been going on for about a decade now. NASCAR got its big TV contract in 2001 to bring the action nationwide. It lost one of its legends in that opening race, then his son became part of a very compelling and riveting story line, and a fad was born.
We all know what it is like. We get all excited about some event, then it does not go as planned. That Christmas morning you waited for so long, only to wake up with the flu. The day at the ballpark longed dreamed of, only to see the storm clouds roll in. That long anticipated first date, only to discover you just blew the rear of your pants out. For me, that was Richmond.
One day they are going to make that movie. It will feature a young Dale Earnhardt Jr. growing up in the shadow of his legendary father. We will see his daddy’s pride as his namesake begins his racing career. That first Tier II win at Texas in 1998. The two Tier II titles that came that year, and the next.